Monday, July 23, 2007

John From Cincy: Attack of the '90s teen idols

Spoilers for episode seven of "John From Cincinnati" coming up just as soon as I order some fries at the Peach Pit...

So after last week's episode left me equal parts baffled and enthralled, this week brings an episode that was more coherent but less engrossing. I'm not saying Milch has lost all the goodwill he built with John's sermon, but I feel like I've stopped seeing the magic again because all I can notice is the magician trying too many tricks at once.

We're seven episodes down, three to go, and I have no idea what, if anything, this is all building towards. Instead of getting back in the game, as John admonished in the very first scene of the series, Mitch Yost has gone AWOL from the last two episodes (and the previews didn't make next week look like a Mitch-fest). Linc spent the first five episodes cooking up some kind of unexplained scam involving Cass (then Tina) and the Yost family, has a change of heart thanks to John and then spends an entire episode ranting about business models and playing a game of digital recorder double-cross with Mark-Paul Gosselaar. (That casting, by the way, I suspect is less of a meta-commentary on '90s teen shows than it is that Gosselaar starred in the final years of "NYPD Blue" and got on well with "John" producer Mark Tinker and was no doubt available quickly when Milch dreamed up the character at the last minute.) Palaka gets yet another pointless mystery ailment, which is largely an excuse to keep Dr. Smith on-stage, which in turn is an excuse for Cissy to worry about the hospital throwing him under the bus -- which is only a problem if the Yosts decide to sue someone, no? I don't get it.

Are there brilliant isolated moments? Absolutely: the look in Bill's eyes when he looks up his spiral stairway to Heaven, Shaun rubbing the back of his dad's head, Dickstein making a stick figure in the wet cement (a callback to "the line and the circle" from the sermon), virtually any scene involving Kai (for someone who got dumped on so much in the early episodes, Keala Kennelly has really proven herself as a worthy addition to the Milch repertory company), and the first real surfing action since the second episode (since the pilot, really, since Shaun's competition was an afterthought).

But the episode was so lacking in an overall through-line that I can't even get too mad at the HBO promo people for inserting John's "Shaun will soon be gone" -- the episode's climax, and major foreshadowing for what's to come -- into the ads for this episode. What the hell else were they going to put there? Linc yelling at Wonderboy? (Who?) Cunningham reveling in his new calling as a candy-striper?

Last week made me feel like I was floating a little, just like Mitch; this week made me feel like I was disappointingly back on terra firma, just like John in his wetsuit when he looked down at his bare feet atop the raised ground.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

i, too, was reeling from last week. But i knew the intensity couldn't stay like that for every episode. Not possible.

This had to be the episode where everyone showed a little of what they learned from the vision they all shared. And there you have it, with a little twist at the end.

It looks like Cass knows what she is doing now, and that Shaun is going to move on soon, which is gonna throw a pretty big wrench into the whole machine.

Dylan hanging out with Zac on the pier was probably the most surreal moment for me....

Oh and that thing that Meyer draws in the cement is not only lines and circles but the same thing John draws with his foot while he gives his sermon in the last episode.

Anonymous said...

Can't watch anymore. I'm bored by the whole thing.

Anonymous said...

Despair is one of the through lines. Did you notice almost everyone had a emotional breakdown. shaunie, butchie, Doc, freddy, palaka, bill seemed on the verge of tears or were tearing. Miltch lifts you up then he brings you back to reality.Just like life. The other through line and more important than the despair is the community of characters helping each other out. They are there for each other Ciss to doc, doc to pallaka, freddy to pallaka, barry to all, Ramone serenades all, Dickstien to cissy etc

Taho said...

I'm still enthralled by the show, but it was definately a slower episode than last week. Hopefully, they are just taking a breath and setting up the final three episodes.

Just wanted to point something out that occurred to me in the final scene when Butchie, Shaun, and John head out to 'get wet'. It seemed like a reference to the Catholic Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Ed O'Neil continues to amaze as Bill.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alan Sepinwall said...

Please save the Entourage comments for the Entourage post, which is coming shortly (sort of).

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to point out that in the first episode John says something to the effect that Ramon Gaviota's people would worship Mitch. Could be what is happening now to Mitch off screen.

Also, he mentions that "Butchie's Mother hurt Barry"... I'm wondering if there is still more skeleton's in Cissy's closet.

Anonymous said...

Was Bruce Greenwood unavailable for some of the eps? It seems very weird to have a "main" character off-screen for so long (save that little Yost Family Photo bit in the last ep).

I wonder if the "Shaunie will be gone soon" stuff means he will run away from all his problems? It would also seem weird to kill him, resurrect him, and then kill him again in one season.

Other than that, the ep was a bit tedious, but that may be mostly due to me watching last week's again before the new one last night.

Anonymous said...

The "stick figure" that Meyer draws in the cement, and which John often traces with his foot, can also be seen as the symbol for "monad," a philosophical term for an indivisible element (or the divine). Monad is also John's last name.

Oh, and it also looks like a radio antenna, the kind that could be used to pick up, say, the Word from John's father, in the form of digital information (ones and zeroes, or lines and circles).

See, isn't this fun? More fun than the plot, anyway.

Anonymous said...

I got the distinct impression that Cass saw something suddenly in her footage and that's why she teared up and hugged John when he appeared.

Aggie said...

Totally agree!!!

In episode 6, John referenced “In Cass's Camera” multiple times during his Sermon.
At the tail end of episode 7, Cass is reviewing footage from her and John’s “field trip” and notices something that brings her to a pseudo state of shock. After which she turns around and hugs John which appears out of nowhere.

What the Hell did she see?
Can someone smarter than I please explain?